Part 28: It is a place where all is made of stinging and pain.
Chapter 19 - It is a place where all is made of stinging and pain.
As we were heading back to the Unseeing Eye's area, Sassar addressed us.
Yes... I have half of the rod here with me.
Most excellent, my Lord! Most wonderful! Let me tell you, then, how the second half of the rod can be acquired. The Unseeing Eye is in a great pit in the center of the cult compound. You cannot enter the pit by the stairs: the beholder's minions would slay you.
I seriously doubt that, but I shall listen.
But you must get into the pit. There is a niche where the beholder stores his treasures... including the rod. There is a safe way to get to that niche. One of our friends is still in the cult. You must approach him and say the phrase 'the eye is blind'. He will then know who you are and be able to help you. You will find him by the Pit of the Faithless... do hurry, my Lord! The beholder continues to mesmerize and murder the innocent even as we speak!
I shall go immediately and find this man you speak of.
Praise the gods! I wish you well, my Lord! Remember, do not speak to Gaal. If he senses that you have half of the rod, the plan is doomed. Speak only to Tad!
Well, we went back to the Unseeing Eye compound and easily avoided Gaal and found Tad.
'The eye is blind'?
You... Sassar sent you? Oh, thank the gods, I am relieved he is still alive! I am Tad... what do you need me to do?
He said that you would know a secret way to reach the small cave at the back of the beholder's lair. Can you help me find it?
You want to enter the beholder's lair? Well... you must go down the Pit of the Faithless. Below is a secret pathway to a small cave in the lair. I don't know exactly where the passage is. Be wary of the creatures who feed upon the bodies of the faithless that are thrown down there.
Are you sure this small cave in the lair will be safe?
It should be safe, my Lord... unless the Unseeing Eye is currently within. He plans a great mass, soon, so if you hurry you should be safe...
That's not very reassuring. But thank you, anyway, Tad.
Good luck, my Lord!
So, the Pit of the Faithless? FULL OF UNDEAD.
Yes, yes, I'm aware there's stuff like a talking zombie outside here, but since I accidentally hit that zombie with a fireball, he died before talking. Whoops...
However, if there's one thing I've learned, it's that summons fix everything. And if they don't, you just don't have enough.
Oh, and talking ghouls are annoying.
I've never seen ghouls act as you do... what is going on here?
We isss fed from the hole... they throwsss the meat to usss. We mussst eat! But we triesss not to eatsss the living! I triesss to teach the ghoulsss to be good, to have town likesss the living!
You consider this to be a civilized town? Who are you?
I... I am the mayor of thisss town. Theshal isss my name. We havesss built it and we triesss to be good... triesss to be ssscivilized...
I... see. Well, could you tell me where the passage to the beholder's lair above is, then?
You... Wantsss to ssse the Great Feeder?
The... Great Feeder? If you're referring to the one who throws you down all the dead bodies then, yes, I suppose so.
The... the Great Feeder isss beyond the bridge, he isss... we goesss there to ssserve him and cleansss him... ...The... sssmell... it isss too much! I cannot ssstand it any moresss! HsssSSS!
And he attacked us and he died again and all was as it should be. With the dead being really dead, that is.
Anyhow, we found the Gauntlets of Dexterity and the Skin of the Ghoul in there. The gauntlets were very handy. The armor, not so much.
One of the many minor hordes of undead that were in the outside of the cavern.
After that, I was very out of spells and Anomen wouldn't shut the hell up about being tired, so we camped. For 8 hours. I've never been much of one for actually responding rationally to peril.
You know, it always baffled me how it is we managed to set fires in places like on rickety wooden planks over large abysses and never have any problems...
[Suddenly, she speaks.] Asim, canst thou dance?
[Tell the truth.] Yes, I can.
Yes, you can lie and say you can, or be honest and say you can't. I ended up choosing that we can because we have a dexterity score of 18, we'd damn well better be able to dance, you know?
Then do thou dance with me! [Saerileth has pulled you to your feet almost before you have realized you are no longer seated.]
Ahaha what. That doesn't even make sense.
[Follow her lead into the dance.]
[Saerileth smiles in innocent pleasure.] First do thou mirror me. [Saerileth begins a wordless melody, slow and stately. The steps of the dance are indeed simple, and you have no difficulty in following her. Only your palms are touching, and you have ample opportunity to feast upon her delicate beauty. The touch of her hands is soft, and the loosed strands of her hair swirl about you in a midnight cloud. The scent of her lingers on your hands long after the dance has ended.]
Wooooooooow that's just creepy as all hell. Also, I have a mental image of Asim sniffing his hands with a really weird look on his face and it is hilarious to me.
And so, we entered the beholder's lair! Beholder lairs pulse in weird places and it is very disgusting.
It was very full of Gauth beholders, mainly.
Which are no match for elementals.
Same goes for these priests.
And so, we found the beholder's rod piece and assembled the Rift Device.
Right at that time, the Unseeing Eye returned.
The Rift Device was rather powerful, but it still couldn't kill the thing the whole way. Melf's Minute Meteor's took care of it the rest of the way. It had a neat little amulet.
Wait, where was it keeping this...?
Best you not think of it.
The only other noteworthy treasure in the lair was Dragon's Bane.
And so, we emerged!
Oh look, we're right by the way down.
Oh, if I'd tried to leave right then, something like this would have happened:
But I'm not an idiot, so what actually happened next was this:
I have said it is the will of your lord. It is depleted, and is to be destroyed.
You lie! You must! There is no hope for us here! It has been ages since any sign or change!
And that age is over. Is it so hard to fathom? It is simply time for the end.
Entropy does claim all in the end, you know.
This cannot be. You cannot be the herald of change. It is not possible. I... I must see for myself. I must hear the word. We all must.
That is all you place here. Why should you get a reward for that?
What we placed was earned! We were abandoned to our endless duty while our lord slept! Our faith weakened and we... and we abandoned him, except in curses. The name has not been spoken outside of a curse for a generation. There has been no sign, and there has been no point.
I have given the sign. What will you do with it?
I will... I... Amaunator! Your people call to you! I, Agru Tindul, Sunlord of the Third House, pursuant to your Conduct of Worship contract, do hereby give my voice to your name. We ask... please... we call to you. Please... we have need of you.
Then... what is left to do?
Nothing. Your task is done. You will all sit by the side of Amaunator in the Keep of the Eternal Sun. The old enemies are gone, and duty is well enough fulfilled.
Praise be to the keeper of time, that he should let it end for the just.
This is the end of things. Rest your mind in my heart. Rest.
And he destroyed the Rift Device and gave us the shield, Saving Grace.
...And then Jan looted the altar.
What, he's dead. He doesn't want it!
As we were walking out...
Paladin senses tingling! Grave evil doth lie ahead! Allow me to cast spells of warding.
Sounds like a plan.
Don't forget Boo!
Oh, this is ridiculous! You don't need that! I'll go ahead.
See, there's nothing he- oh no. Why is there a pit fiend. AAH! AAAAAAAH! That doesn't - AAAAAAAUGH. Wait. What's that portal. Bees. BEES. HOW CAN AN ELEMENTAL PLANE OF BEES EXIST OH GODS IT STINGS AAAUGH BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES!!!
[Translated - "OH FUCK! BEES! Looks like I'm not killing anyone else today!"]
...Soooooo... We... Seem to be out one cleric of Helm.
Wasn't there that cleric/mage elf girl in the circus?
Sounds like a plan, I guess. We do need a replacement, after all.
Thou wouldst so readily abandon Sir Anomen?
Saerileth. ELEMENTAL PLANE OF BEES. Until five minutes ago, I did not know that such a place even existed, or that bees even counted as an element. But apparently, they do. Anomen has undoubtedly been stung more times than there are numbers for. The gods are either sadistic or merciful. I'm not sure which. Perhaps just insane.
Why yes, yes I did just summon a Pit Fiend, cast Protection from Evil on anyone not Anomen, and then make up something completely ridiculous.
Archival Commentary - Why/how did I even think of something like the Elemental Plane of Bees anyway?
As we were leaving, Sassar addressed us.
And so, we were finally out of that goddamned sewer! HUZZAH!
As we headed back to the Temple of Helm, there seemed to be a very worried looking halfling at the side of the road.
The Hearthkeeper? Never heard of her.
Not many would, I suppose. She is a goddess of the halflings... representing our ideals of friendship and trust. You may notice there are a large number of the wee folk here in Athkatla. Cyrrollalee tries Her best to provide a safe home for the people here in the city. As you might understand, it is important for us halflings to fit in wherever we can. A home is a home... we may as well strive to make it a pleasant home.
Ah, yes, the little folk. This reminds me of as story, wouldn't you know...
You've another story for us, talespinner? Do tell.
Oh, it's not much of a story, I suppose. Just a tale from my youth about an infatuation with a young halfling lass that worked in the local bakery. She wasn't a baker, mind you. She was a food-taster and a champion eater at the festivals. How she used to stuff those pound cakes into her mouth. What an appetite! For fun, we used to roll her downhill and watch those furry feet spin about in every direction. What a thrilling laugh, she had! Hmmm... or were they screams of terror? You know, after the first century or so your youth isn't quite what you remember it to be.
I... That... makes less sense than the existence of an Elemental Plane of Bees, Jan.
You seem quite shaken by that, Asim.
Well, it did just shake my understanding of the Planes, so yes, I am somewhat shaken.
It was a beholder cult! I have destroyed the beast and all of its plans!
A beholder cult in the very heart of Helm's sight? You have done a great service removing it! We will send clergy to remove all taint of its presence. To your reward. Such service would earn greatness for one of the flock, but you are occupied elsewhere and will have to be content with mere gold and trinkets. You will not be disappointed, though the spiritual rewards could have been much more. You are welcome here, so long as you maintain a favorable reputation. Oh! Speak with Guardian Telwyn as you leave. He may have a task suited to you, though Helm reserves true blessings for those that follow.
These acts will place our names in the songs of skalds and bards from here to my home, there can be no doubt!
And he gave us some gold and Ardulia's Fall.
I will listen. What is it that you need?
I knew you would not disappoint; you have already proven reliable. Here is the duty I require. Bear with me, for the telling is a little complicated. It is my responsibility to furnish this temple with the artifacts that speak of Helm's glory. Objects that please the eye draw the mind into the glory of Helm.
And what would you have me do?
Athkatla is lucky to have an exceptional artist visiting, second only perhaps to that poor Prism of Nashkel. What a loss his death was to us.
...Aye... I have looked upon his final work, and I was present as he finally completed it. It... is exquisite. I think that it shall never be outdone.
Then you are blessed. Anyhow, I speak of Sir Sarles, who is making a brief stop before leaving for Calimshan. We wish to use this great opportunity to commission a work from him. But nothing is ever easy. Aside from his enormous commission fee, he claims he will work in nothing short of pure illithium - a metal more valued than gold!
That is problematic. What can I do?
This is where you come in. I would ask that you convince Sarles to honor Helm. Other churches court him as well, though they have no more illithium than we. You will have to secure enough illithium to keep him happy, and convince him to accept an affordable commission. Discuss this with Sarles, he may be reasonable. Do as you must. Be stern in your negotiations. None should exceed Helm in this. Try to avoid hurting anyone, but answer threats in kind. Sarles is worth it.
What if another temple has secured him first?
I am certain he will choose Helm no matter what deal he has already struck. None are more worthy. Pay what you must to encourage him and you will be compensated. Delay will allow other temples to outstep us. Go to Sarles at the Jysstev estate in the southeast section of the Government District. Conduct yourself with discipline; you are the eyes of Helm in this enterprise.
Once we got outside...
Asim, what didst thou mean when thou spoke of Prism's final work?
Ah. His last and final work is a carven face on a cliffside outside the Nashkel mines. The last thing he spoke in this world was the name "Ellesime".
Well, before that, we needed a new cleric, and it was time to hit the shops and get some loots.
Then he is a smart man because here we are. Would you like to travel with us, Aerie?
You would let me travel with you? I... I would like that, Asim, and-and it would make Quayle so proud... Thank you.
I think you should know, Aerie, that my ultimate goal is to rescue a friend of mine... Imoen... who has been captured by the Cowled Wizards. It could be dangerous.
If this friend of yours... if she's in danger, then I'd be glad to help you look for her. It's the least that I owe you, no matter what the danger is!
After that, we headed off to the Adventurer's Mart and sold off all our loot from recent adventures. We bought the Reflection Shield for Aerie and a Girdle of Hill Giant Strength for Haer'Dalis. We then headed off to the Coronet to speak with the merchant Joluv, and purchased the Sling of Everard.
Hhhuh. Maybe I'm thinking of an old bug, but I distinctly remember that thing being bugged so that the bullets hit as normal bullets. Whatever. Also, I'm pretty sure we're far enough into the Saerileth romance that we will never see the Saerileth/Aerie arguments, which is really good because they're so god DAMN annoying to read.
And so, we camped!
[The firelight plays in the glossy black of her hair. Her beauty is intoxicating, and her nearness is arousing.]
[Cuddle with Saerileth and say nothing.]
Mine own, rarely do we have a time of quiet and rest; thus this now is most precious. I do feel thy spirit speaking to mine. Our communion needeth not words.
Saerileth, I feel the world is perfect as I sit here by the fire holding you.
'Tis true, my love. The daily hardships, the battles, and the blood are all fled away. In all the world there is naught but thee and me. [For long you sit together, neither of you willing to break your fellowship. But the need for sleep eventually overcomes you both, and you retire to your beds.]
Now then! That's how it actually occurred, but what if I were extremely forward and wanted to have sex with a 15 year old girl I'd met the month before? Well, that conversation would have occurred something like this!
[The firelight plays in the glossy black of her hair. Her beauty is intoxicating, and her nearness is arousing.]
Saerileth, will you make love to me?
[Saerileth's face pales.] Thou canst not mean now?
[Saerileth rises and steps back from you, her eyes dim with tears.] Ah, my Asim, 'tis wrong in thee to ask this of me. We are not yet wed.
That doesn't matter! We love each other!
Nay, Asim. [Saerileth backs farther away from you.] To become one with thee is not merely the outpouring of passion. 'Tis also the promise of a future generation. 'Tis not right that this shouldst go unaccompanied by the nuptial vow. I do grieve that it must be so, but, Asim, thou and my heart henceforth shall be twain. No more may I love thee. [Saerileth leaves you then, her jaw set, despite the wetness of her eyes.]
Well, it's a good thing I'm not that!
It... It baffles me. I mean... Christ, why would they even write this shit? There's got to be some horrible psychological thing I could accuse them of here, but I don't know anything about psychology, so I can't do it. Little help here?
We got to the Government district and got accused of being evil or something. Look, I don't know, I wasn't really listening very closely anyway.
Are you sure that's some of them? Don't look like them.
I ain't taking any chances. You saw what happened to the Commander. Look at the way they are equipped. It could be them.
At ease, soldier! I'll not have you running around accosting people on my watch!
Sir! He was just making sure they were not a threat.
These people are not who we are looking for, I am certain. We'll cause panic if we accuse everyone. You! Have you seen anything suspicious or unnatural lately?
Not to my knowledge. Trouble in the city? Perhaps I could help.
There have been reports of fighting in the streets at night. Something to do with the supposed Shadow Thief guild and a rival. If you do see something, just keep your distance. I've already had uninvolved people go missing and I don't need any more. Keep out of the streets at night, citizens. All the decent folk are asleep at those hours anyway.
After that, we got to the Jysstev Estate and were accosted by their butler. Again. He does that, you know.
Not with them as such. I had heard that the artist Sarles was here?
SIR Sarles is a guest at the moment. No doubt you are from some church or another? [sigh] You are expected. Try not to track your dirt about too much.
I apologize, but I have come to request your talent on a commissioned artwork.
Oh, yes, yes, yes. One of those bloody churches sent you, didn't they? Must be, because everyone else understands the word 'no'. Which one are you from?
Helm has sent me forth. His everseeing eyes wish to gaze upon your work. Well, until he gets killed by Tyr relatively soon. Something about a love triangle involving Tymora. What the hell.
And your offer is the same as the others. Gold and the satisfaction of serving the one true whatever.
But think of the prestige you will earn.
I have prestige now. I am the darling of every noble in town, and damned if I need any more than that. Neither do I need the payment. I am well provided for. What I really need is to work in the medium of my choice. Pure illithium. Anything less is an insult to my skills. That is all I require.
But I am told such a material is very costly and rare. Is there no alternative?
You are told? Have you not checked? Gathering the materials is not the job of a fine artist such as myself. Go speak with an ore merchant or somesuch. I recall the name of one that was referred to me on my last visit. Jerlia was her name, I believe. Speak with her. She has exotics occasionally. Try the Promenade. Now go! I will work for whatever church acquires the necessary materials! If not yours, then another! 200 pounds of illithium or I go back to enjoying my holiday!
At that point, it was really pretty obvious that our only option was to go to Jerlia.
I have need of illithium for Sir Sarles. How much would 200 pounds be worth?
200 pounds! He's mad! Raving! Out of his mind!
So does this mean you don't have it in stock?
You don't know what is involved in getting illithium. I've an agreement with a rather special source, but there's only so much I'm allowed to take. 50 pounds a season at most.
So this is a fruitless enterprise then? He has sent me on a merry little chase.
Hold on. It's difficult, but not impossible. There are two options to you. You can go to my source and try and ply the extra out of him, or you can use a... substitute.
Where is your source? I'm sure he will see reason.
He may at that, but I will require compensation for revealing him to you. If word got out who and where my source was, I would be out of business. Make it worth my while.
If this could ruin you, I should offer no less than 1,000 gold.
His name is Unger Hilldark. He stays in the Copper Coronet when he's in town. Don't get him mad, will you? He's at enough of a risk just coming here. He's... he's Duergar. He's in disguise. His kind doesn't look all that different, and as long as he's left alone, he's fine. Not a bad guy, once you get to know him. You go talk to him. Tell him I sent you. Maybe he'll let you pull a little more illithium out of him than I can get. It won't be cheap though.
Thanks. I'll do that.
Good luck. You'll need it. Of course, you knew I would say that.
With that, it was fairly obviously off to the Coronet to speak with a Duergar.
No need for hostilities. Jerlia sent me. I wish to discuss illithium.
She did, did she? I'll have to have a chat with the lass. I trust you paid her enough that there will be some for her to split with me. She will see that it is wise to do so. So you seek illithium, do you? I have none, and I won't be getting any anytime soon. Now that that is out of the way, Goodbye.
Wait. This could be very profitable for you. Won't you reconsider?
It doesn't matter, fool. I don't HAVE any illithium. It's that simple. My source is inaccessible, and you aren't getting any. Get angry if you wish, but it won't help.
You sound like this was not a planned shortage. What is the problem?
Oh, so now you wish to be my friend? Why should I bother with you at all?
I'm not interested in harming a simple merchant. Where else will you get help?
Nowhere. This place is unfriendly even to the pathetic dwarves of hill and mountain. Alright, fool, you wish to share my problem, I'll give it to you. You want illithium, you can wait for it. We mine it deep in the earth, and it's dangerous going. It's rare enough when production is normal. This is all useless information though, because my latest shipment was stolen from under me! So there's no illithium for anyone for another season or more!
I'll exact justice for you. I'll take the illithium I need and leave the bandit dead.
You want to go chasing after him, that's your business. It's lost to me anyway. I show my face and he'll have the guards on me just for being duergar. Typical of this city. I'm just a poor businessman, but I'll be jailed just for my shadowed face. This bastard that robbed me looks like a hill dwarf, so he's welcomed with open arms. They wouldn't guess at what a fiend he is. After I hired him, I found out what he had done. I suppose that's why he cheated me and took off.
Don't you worry. Just point me in the right direction.
Yes, well, you can go after him if you like. Last I heard he was holed up in the Bridge district. A derelict little place bought with my gold... here, I'll even mark it on your map, there. He won't be moving much. He was on the run from Baldur's Gate when I met him. Oh, I suppose you'll want his name as well. The name was Neb. He left a few families crying, or so I hear. Tell his corpse that Unger Hilldark sent you.
Neb? On the run from Baldur's Gate? Oh, but I've wanted to run into him again for... some time, now.
As we journeyed to Neb's hideout, we encountered two men fighting.
I included this because Shank and Carbos happen to be the names of the two would-be assassins in Candlekeep. I always thought it was kind of neat.
No, it is YOU that shall never have her! She loves me!
No, she loves ME!! ME!!
Boys... boys... Don't fight over me, please.
Fight over her? What an excellent idea! Yes, we shall fight over our beloved Bubbles!
Yes, that sounds wonderful. Shall we start now?
Certainly, if you wish to.
[sigh] Well, fine. Go ahead, then. If that's what you boys have to do.
And then, Shank slew Carbos.
You splattered blood on my dress, you ignorant dolt! I'm not going anywhere with you!!
Bubbles! But... but Bubbles! But I love you, my chicken pot pie! Come back!
My, that was stupid. Now then, into this house.
Is your name Neb?
Why friend, who told you my name? Who... who is it that sent you here?
I hear that you are on the run from Baldur's Gate. If I remember correctly from my false imprisonment, the souls of thirty-three children cry out for vengeance on your soul, Neb...
So, my former life does come back to haunt? So be it, though I shall miss the children so. Ah yes, the children... Come then, attack! And your deaths shall be a riddle for some other fool to solve!
Boo remembers! Baldur's Gate! Neb the child murderer! You die, dwarf, you die!! RAAAAAGGGGGHHHH!!
Don't know who you are, but it will be a pleasure to beat you!
After we rather swiftly took care of Neb (satisfying!), the wraiths he summoned to attack us were freed from their servitude.
And we took the Illithium Ore and Neb's head.
Fun fact - Neb's head's .bam is very different from the sketch in the item info. It's hovering over Haer'Dalis' paper doll in this screenshot.
At last, then, perhaps the parents of these children may rest in the knowledge that justice hath been done.
Was... Was an interjection REALLY necessary there? I swear, this damn mod... Though, I will admit that I did fully play this game around 5 times before ever figuring out what you're supposed to do with Neb's head. It just kinda stayed in my inventory the entire game and probably got rather rotted and smelly.
Since no one really likes a bloody head in their pack, we took Neb's head to the authorities immediately.
I have the head of the child-killer Neb. He is dead and will bother no one any longer.
Let's see what you have, there. Yes... despite the, ah, condition of the head, it is obviously the criminal we've been seeking. You have no idea what a despicable creature Neb was. Or perhaps you do. Regardless, we're thankful for your help. I hope this reward is sufficient. I understand the Flaming Fist was looking for him as well. I'll send them a note explaining your deed, so they can stop looking now. Thank you again, citizen. You've done well.
After that, we were finally able to take our illithium to Sir Sarles.
Ahh, illithium ore in its rawest form. Can you feel the primal energy wafting off of it? It practically screams for a firm hand to shape it... mold it... caress it... Err... yes, well, you have met my demands. I will work for your lord, and compose a fitting tribute to his glory... or some such. My muse will decide.
I thank you on behalf of the followers of Helm.
Our business is concluded. The piece will be delivered when it is done. I will dispatch a messenger to collect my fee and tell your church of my decision.
Back at the church...
Now, to what you are owed. You have served Helm with due care, and have earned a portion of the artist's commision to cover any cost you paid. You have earned more than mere gold as well. Helm is practical, and would have his payment be so as well. You shall have the Helm of Glory, to further yourself. Report back to me when you are able. We have allies that will require your service.
The Helm of Glory is nice.